Government social mobility tzar Dame Martina Milburn resigns

The chair of the government’s Social Mobility Commission has resigned after just two years in the job.

Dame Martina Milburn was appointed in May 2018, but now says she needs to focus her attention on her day job as chief executive of the Prince’s Trust.

She is the second chair of the commission to resign in three years. Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister, stood down from the role in December 2017.

In a letter to the prime minister Boris Johnson, Milburn said that doing the job for just three days a month had been “a real challenge”.

“To make an impact, what the secretariat needs is an executive chairman on at least three days per week or a different structure – perhaps something more akin to that of the children’s commissioner?”

Milburn said she made the decision to stand down “with deep regret, and after several sleepless nights”.

“These are, as many commentators have said, unprecedented times and I cannot any longer commit the time that chairing such an important body takes.

“My day job…is now commanding my full attention.”

However, she said she was “extremely proud of what has been achieved at the commission in the last two years – appointing the 12 very diverse commissioners, re-establishing the secretariat and commissioning a variety of reports from the state of the nation to an employers’ toolkit”.

“Currently, we have 16 reports in the pipeline, have conducted a popular series of webinars for employers and have begun to form partnerships with bodies such as the metro-mayors and with other important commissions. We have also brought the social mobility charities together and appointed a range of social mobility ambassadors.”

But she said this was “not nearly enough”, and warned that “given the strong links between social mobility and poverty I fear this current crisis will only serve to make social mobility harder than ever”.

In a response to Milburn’s letter, Gavin Williamson, the education secretary said she had “brought strong and effective leadership to the Commission during the two years since your appointment”.

“Whilst I understand entirely the importance of devoting your attention and time to duties elsewhere — and the considerable social value brought by your work at the Prince’s Trust — your departure from the Commission is a loss.”

Williamson also said he had asked ministers to consider proposals set out by Milburn for her successor.

In her letter, Milburn said she had “appointed two very able deputy Chairmen, either of whom could take over from me if they have the time and would you so wish”.

“I also have some work to clear up before I go, so I would be happy to discuss a short transition period and a leaving date.”

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